Day 25. Visual Storytelling: SINGLE PANEL STORIES
How to be less lonely, one mini-story at a time
Good morning/afternoon/evening/wee hours, my fine GUT friends.
Huzzah! Yesterday’s single word story experiment was a success! I was worried the whole cutting-up-paper thing might throw some of you. Boy was I wrong. So many surprisingly poignant, randomly hilarious, unexpected and profound visual stories came out of our chance-driven drawing adventure. Thank you for taking a leap with me.
AND! Thank you all for minding my note about our 10 minute drawing limit. A reminder on why I strongly suggest using a 10 minute timer (or one of our new GUT 10 minute playlists) to limit your daily GUT drawing time: the GUT’s 30 Days of drawing is about letting go of self-defeating expectations and perfectionism, and building a solid drawing habit that will extend beyond 30 days. When we give ourselves a strict ten minute drawing limit, we take pressure off of ourselves to make a “good” drawing. We finish on a high note, which helps us look forward to continuing into the future. Finally, you can’t spell DrawTogether without TOGETHER. When we all draw for 10 minutes it keeps us drawing (and playing, leaping, learning, growing) together.
Reminder: the ten minute timer is only for the GUT’s 30 days. When we return to our regular weekly GUT sessions, heck, draw for 14 hours! YOU DO YOU. Whatever you do, love you, GUT peeps.
Now let’s keep going, together.
Single Panel Stories
Today we continue with our text and image exploration by creating a SINGLE PANEL STORIES. What is a panel, you ask? A panel is a discrete drawing in comic. Imagine opening a comic or graphic novel and seeing a page with 6 squares on it and together tell a story. That is one story in six panels. A single panel comic or cartoon is a visual story contained in one panel.
For example. Here’s one by Will McPhail, which happens to be my favorite comic of all time and I am convinced he it drew about me.
Including the fancy top hat and no pants, thank you very much.
Or this classic by
One drawing. Some words. A great story. In the case of comics or cartoons, they are usually funny. But they don’t have to be. They just have to combine words and images to tell a little story.
The difference between the single word story we created yesterday and today’s single panel? It’s got MORE information in it. The more information we include, the more we guide the reader’s understanding of a story. Yesterday’s single word stories were so open ended that a reader could interpret them however they want to. With a single panel story, the artist tells the reader what to think.
So that’s what we’re doing today. We’re making single panel stories.
But what are we going to make them about, you ask? I was wondering the same thing. So I asked my dear friend, the writer, if she had any good ideas. Courtney and I have run writing/drawing workshops together, and she always has powerful prompts. (She also has the best Substack which you should read and subscribe!)
And of course, she had a great suggestion: interacting with strangers. If you know me or my work at all, you know this is one of my favorite things to do!
Here’s what Courtney said:
You know what I missed most during the pandemic? (Other than childcare 🥴)? Little passing points of connection with strangers--the funny conversation with a barista, the look exchanged with someone on the train that speaks a thousand words, the quick book club with someone on an airplane who happens to be devouring your recent favorite book. It's starting to trickle back in more and more now and I find my spirits SO LIFTED by these little reminders that the world is vast, surprising, and full of good-hearted humans. Our lives are--in my humble opinion--too weighted towards tending to our own little nuclear families or our own little selves, and it turns out we can look up and out and make eye contact and have a little laugh with someone we may never meet again. It's life-affirming and expanding in so many ways.
RIGHT?? I feel the same way.
Courtney’s suggestion sent me down a research rabbit hole. I found a ton of fascinating science on exactly what she’s talking about (also happens to be what I try to cultivate in my project DrawTogether Stranger) Turns out it’s called “Weak Ties.”
The barista at the coffee shop you chat with. The bagger at the grocery store you say hi to. The postal worker you smile and wave at. These are not people you would consider being part of your intimate social or familial circle. But it turns out these loose friendships - or “weak ties” - may be just as important to your health and wellbeing as your closest relationships.
In this short, fascinating NPR piece titled “Why a stranger’s hello can do more than just brighter your day” professor Gillian Sandstrom of Sussex University shared her work studying the importance of weak ties. Her interest started after noticing how much happier she was after small, regular interactions with the local hotdog vendor. Now, Sandstrom’s “work is part of a growing body of research that looks at the value of [weak ties and] social connectedness, not just to our happiness and well-being but our overall physical health. (In fact, social isolation hurts our minds and bodies so much that it's known to increase risk of premature death.)”
Multiple studies have shows that weak social ties are just as important as strong ones for life satisfaction. Graduate student Hanne Collins of Harvard University says “humans are inherently social beings. And social connection is a key factor in our health. And then there's a lot of evidence that close ties are important, but weak ties are also important. And so what we find is, essentially, it's about this mix.”
So what does this tell us?
I’ll tell you what I think, friends. I THINK THIS IS ONE OF THE THINGS WE GET FROM THE GUT!
So thank you, Courtney. And that is 100% what we are doing with the GUT today. We are going to make single panel stories about some weak ties, whereby boosting our health and wellness. And the fact that we are doing this with people in the GUT who we have developed weak (but awesome) ties to, well, that’s just going to blast us into space and make us become one with the creative universe.